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Preview: USA vs. Morocco – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday’s International Friendlies clash between USA and Morocco, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Two teams, who are heading to the World Cup later this winter, will face each other for the fourth time in their history as the USES host Morocco in a friendly at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati on Wednesday.

Despite winning only one of their last three qualifiers, The Yanks are back in the finals after missing out in 2018, while The Atlas Lions advanced to the showcase event for the sixth time thanks to a 4-1 triumph over DR Congo back in March, winning that third-round tie, 5-2 on aggregate.


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©Reuters

It was far from impressive, but Gregg Berhalter and his team will not care as they booked their place in Qatar, mainly because of a big 5-1 victory in their second to last qualifying affair versus Panama.

That win put the US in a solid position to return to the finals, and although they were beaten 2-0 by Costa Rica in their last qualification affair, they still managed to claim an automatic World Cup berth from the CONCACAF region.

With fewer than six months to go before the big tournament, we are likely to see their coach use these upcoming matches to experiment with various players and systems, given that there are a number of key individuals who are currently on the sidelines.

Those injuries will remain a significant concern, but there are also question marks surrounding a couple of positions, namely in goal and in the attack.

Since taking charge of the Americans, condensing the field has been a point of emphasis for Berhalter, while playing a high backline, and also pressing teams higher up the pitch.

Their play at home has been their saving grace, going unbeaten in the Octagonal round of qualifying, winning five of those six games played in the US.

Heading this encounter, the reigning CONCACAF Gold Cup and Nations League champions have not lost in 18 consecutive games on US soil, collecting a clean sheet in four of their last five outings.

It has been over a year since the United States suffered a defeat after scoring first, when Ricardo Rodriguez and Steven Zuber found the back of the net for Switzerland, winning 2-1 in a friendly played in St. Gallens back in May 2021.

Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic reacts on January 25, 2022©Reuters

After some lean years in the early 2000s, Moroccan football appears to be on the rise once again, with the North Africans currently ranked 24th globally.

November’s tournament will be the second trip to the finals for manager Vahid Halilhodzicwho has now guided four different nations to the World Cup (Ivory Coast, Japan, Algeria, Morocco), though his only experience at that competition took place in 2014, when the Algerians made it to the Round of 16.

There has been plenty of infrastructure put in place for the national team program, and we are seeing that investment pay off handsomely.

A number of national team players are currently featuring with clubs across Europe, while the Moroccans have only suffered one defeat over 90 minutes since the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, losing 2-1 to Egypt at the end of January this year in the Quarter- Finals of that competition.

Morocco have their share of intelligent technical players, with lots of skill and creativity in the middle, while they are no pushovers either, possessing a robust physical presence which rarely sees them become intimidated.

They looked unbeatable in African qualifying this time out, winning all six of their group games in the second round, and conceding only twice in their eight matches played, scoring 26 times.

While there is no disputing that they are among the strongest sides within their own region, it is worth noting that they have not played a team outside of their continent in over three years, and have not defeated any non-African team since a 3- 1 win over Estonia in 2018.

Historically Morocco have never lost a game to a CONCACAF country, failing to concede in their only three contests against those sides this century, defeating Canada (4-0), Costa Rica (1-0) and the USA (1-0).

USA International Friendlies form:

USA form (all competitions):

Morocco International Friends form:

Morocco form (all competitions):


TeamNews

Gregg Berhalter of the USA during the match on March 30, 2022©Reuters

The consensus is that Matt Turner and Zack Steffen will be competing to be the starting goalkeeper for The US heading into Qatar, and they both had solid outings in qualifying as the future Arsenal man (Turner) collected three clean sheets, while the Man City backup had two.

Christian Pulisic led the Americans with five goals in qualifying, though it remains to be seen who will be their best number nine option in the attack at the World Cup as Ricardo Pepi carved three times in the Octagon, while Brenden Aaronson, Antonee Robinson and Weston McKennie each netted twice.

Berhalter chose several newcomers to his squad for this upcoming friendly, as Haji Wright, Malik Tillman and joe scally will each be looking to earn their first international cap, while Jesus Ferrera aims to continue his strong domestic campaign with the national team, as he is currently tied for the MLS Golden Boot with Jeremy Ebobissewith nine tallies so far.

Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok and daryl dyke are all out injured, Miles Robinson will miss the World Cup because of a ruptured Achilles tendon, John Reyna has a hamstring strain, Chris Richards has a foot and thigh injury, while the status of MLS MVP candidate Djordje Mihailovic will be in question after the CF Montreal midfielder was taken off in the 17th minute this past weekend with a knock.

Ayoub El Kaabi led the Moroccans with five goals in World Cup 2022 qualifying, while a strike from Tarik Tissoudali and Achraf Hakimiplus a brace from Azzedine Ounahi helped them defeat the Congo, thus punching their ticket to Qatar.

Captain Romain Saïss is their most experienced player chosen for this encounter as the Wolves defender has 60 international caps to his name, while striker Zakaria Aboukhlal can reach double-digits in appearances for the senior squad should he see the field on Wednesday.

Soyfan Amrabat, Amine Harit and soufiane rahimi have yet to score an international goal, while Yassine Bounou collected five clean sheets in the second round of qualifying.

He is one of three Moroccan players currently representing Sevilla in La Liga, along with Youssef En-Nesyri and Munir Elhaddadiwhile defend Noussair Mazraoui recently signed a four-year contract with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich after starring in the Eredivisie with Ajax.

USA possible starting line-up:
Turners; A. Robinson, Long, Zimmerman, Yedlin; McKennie, Adams, Musah; Pulisic, Ferreira, Weah

Morocco possible starting lineup:
Bounou; Hakimi, Mmaee, Saiss, Aguerd, Masina; Taarabt, Amrabat, Ounahi; Tissoudali, El Kaabi


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We say: USA 2-0 Morocco

These are two of the highest-ranked teams in their respective regions, but the Americans have more individual quality across the board and are a challenging side to break down on home soil.

It is hard to know how good The Atlas Lions genuinely are, given that most of their encounters have been versus African teams, and we expect it will be difficult for them to find ways through an organized and talented US squad.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.


top tips

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:date


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